What better way to plunge into the new year than with an icy dip for charity?

More than 700 Canadians of all ages will kick off the new year by running into the cold water of Lake Ontario at the Courage Polar Bear Dip to raise money in this annual tradition.

But this year, the dip features more than just colourful costumes and live music — it also marks Canada's first million dollar dip for charity. In the 17 years since Courage Polar Bear Dip first partnered with World Vision, it will have raised more than $1 million.

“Going back all those years, first of all, we never realized this would become an annual tradition. As it became a tradition, it was just some friends and family who got together. But, once we moved it somewhere public and got charities involved, even at that point, I never dreamed we’d be here at this point looking at a $1 million mark and what affect that $1 million does,” co-founder Trent Courage told The Oakville Beaver.

One of the oldest and most established Polar Bear Dips takes place on Canada's west coast at Vancouver's English Bay. The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club has been around since 1920, when there were only 10 swimmers. Since then, its membership has grown to hold a new record of 2,246 official entries set in 2011. Now in its 93rd year, it raises food and cash for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

And it's not just Canadians who are feeling cool enough to ring in the new year with a swim.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club in New York will assemble at the boardwalk and swim in the Atlantic Ocean to help raise funds for Camp Sunshine, an organization that helps kids battling life-threatening diseases. This year, participants are also encouraged to donate to assist the rebuilding of the Coney Island Community after Hurricane Sandy.

Not too far away, citizens of Pennsylvania will usher in the new year with an icy dip on New Year's Day for various causes — in Harrisburg, they'll be helping the Humane Society, while in Lebanon Country, they're raising money for Developmental & Disability Services of Lebanon Valley Foundation, Inc., a local charity that provides training and education services to children and adults with disabilities.

Nothing says a fresh start to the New Year like a cleansing dip into the frigid waters of Boston Harbor. Every year, the money here goes to South Boston Sports Hall of Fame Scholarship Fund, a charity that helps residents of South Boston who are pursuing, but can't afford secondary education.

Across the continent, the icy waters are a source of warmth and caring for people in need.

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  • English Bay

    Participants prepare to enter the frigid waters of English Bay during the 92nd annual Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

  • English Bay

    Participants dressed in a shark costume take to the frigid waters of English Bay during the 92nd annual Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday Jan. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

  • Coney Island Polar Bear Club

    Participants in the annual New Year's Day Coney Island Polar Bear Club swim prepare to enter the ocean in New York, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Coney Island Polar Bear Club

    Taylor Davidson, right, runs screaming from the ocean with her fiancee Jesse Sanchez after swimming with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club at Coney Island in New York, Monday, Jan. 1, 2007. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States, holds a New Years Day swim annually. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Coney Island Polar Bear Club

    Friends play in the water while swimming with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club at Coney Island in New York, Monday, Jan. 1, 2007. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States, holds a New Years Day swim annually. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Coney Island Polar Bear Club

    Participants in the annual New Year's Day Coney Island Polar Bear Club swim play with an inflatable octopus in New York, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Coney Island Polar Bear Club

    Lisa Levesque, right, and Erin McLachlan react after jumping in the ocean during the annual New Year's Day Coney Island Polar Bear Club swim in New York, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • Riverwalk Marina

    People dive into the water during the Polar Bear Plunge at Riverwalk Marina, high noon on New Year's Day, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Decatur, Ala. The event is sponsored by the Polar Bear Club and is the only meeting the club holds all year. The event is open to anyone willing to take the plunge. (AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr.)

  • Tennessee River

    Ali Carden is one of the first out of the Tennessee River at the Polar Bear Plunge at Riverwalk Marina, high noon on New Year's Day in Decatur, Ala. The event is sponsored by the Polar Bear Club and is the only meeting the club holds all year. The event is open to anyone willing to take the plunge. (AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr.)

  • Chesapeake Bay

    A group of plungers, including Lizzie Evans, center, run out of the Chesapeake Bay during the 16th annual Polar Bear Plunge to raise funds for the Special Olympics Maryland Sat. Jan. 28, 2012 in Annapolis, Md.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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